The Anchoring Effect: How The Mind is Biased by First Impressions

Posted on May 28, 2013

To illustrate the anchoring effect, let's say I ask you how old Mahatma Gandhi was when he died.

For half of you I'll preface the question by saying: "Did he die before or after the age of 9?" For the other half I'll say: "Did he die before or after the age of 140?"

Obviously these are not very helpful statements. Anyone who has any clue who Gandhi was will know that he was definitely older than 9; while the oldest person who ever lived was 122. So why bother making these apparently stupid statements?

Because, according to the results of a study conducted by Strack and Mussweiler (1999), these initial statements, despite being unhelpful, affect the estimates people make.

In their experiment, the first group guessed an average age of 50 and the second, 67.

All of us have a tendency to use anchors or reference points to make decisions and evaluations, and sometimes these lead us astray.

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Source material from PsyBlog